The Hangman's House, Tours

Impression: Freer Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art
Number: 393
Date: 1888
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 135 x 99 mm
Signed: butterfly at lower left
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: no
No. of States: 3
Known impressions: 6
Catalogues: K.376; M.376
Impressions taken from this plate  (6)


It was never published. However, it is considered part of Whistler's unpublished 'Renaissance Set'.


The Hangman's House, Tours was rarely exhibited in Whistler's lifetime. Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) bought an impression, and called it, incorrectly, 'Hangman's House, Bourges'. 23 He then lent it under this title to the exhibition organised by the Caxton Club in Chicago in 1900 (Graphic with a link to impression #K3760102). 24 There is some confusion about which impression Freer owned when, and likewise, which was owned by Howard Mansfield (1849-1938). Mansfield owned Freer's impression at some time, and lent an impression, which has not been located, to the Whistler Memorial show in Boston in 1904. 25

It was also shown after Whistler's death in the comprehensive Memorial show at the Grolier Club, New York in 1904 and another impression was lent by Ernest Marsh (fl. 1935) to the London Memorial show in 1905. 26

23: Memo, [4 September 1902], GUW #11701.

24: Chicago 1900 (cat. no. 262). See REFERENCES : EXHIBITIONS.

25: Boston 1904 (cat. no. 216).

26: New York 1904a (cat. no. 360); London Mem. 1905 (cat. no. 323).


The earliest sale of The Hangman's House, Tours was by the artist to John Postle Heseltine (1843-1929) on 20 January 1889, at a price of £8.8.0. 27

27: GUW #13037.

Other sales quickly followed, all at the same price, to the London print dealers, Messrs Dowdeswell on 25 January (as 'The Hang Man's House') and to the Fine Art Society (as 'Hangman’s House – Tristan'), and H. Wunderlich & Co. of New York, between March and May 1889. 28 Wunderlich's handled at least two of the known impressions, one of which was acquired by Lessing Julius Rosenwald (1891-1971), who gave it to the National Gallery of Art (Graphic with a link to impression #K3760103), and another, bequeathed by Miss Louise Veltin (dates unknown) to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (Graphic with a link to impression #K3760203). An impression was among 'Etching Proofs' catalogued at the National Academy of Design in New York in 1892. 29

The etching was rare and few major collectors had a chance to acquire it in Whistler's lifetime, although Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) bought one, possibly in 1894, and certainly before 1900 (Graphic with a link to impression #K3760102), which was bequeathed with the rest of his collection to the Freer Gallery of Art. To round off the story of these gifts and bequests, William P. Chapman, Jr; bequeathed a fine impression to Cornell University in 1957 (Graphic with a link to impression #K3760202) and Vera Stacey Wainwright (1893-1967) bequeathed another to the British Museum in 1968 (Graphic with a link to impression #K3760202).

28: Dowdeswell, GUW #00912; F.A.S., 27 March and 29 May 1889, #13000, #13645; Wunderlich, 16 April, 24 May, 26 June 1889, #13055, #13056, #07179.

29: Raymond L. Wilson, Index to American Print Exhibitions 1882-1920, Lanham, MD, 1988.